Lover’s Leap Trail
1.7 Miles – Moderate
Lover’s Leap is a short and popular hike in the Pisgah National Forest that offers breath-taking views of Hot Springs and the French Broad River.
Starting at the NOC trailhead kiosk, hikers will start by following the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail on the flat, single-track path as it hugs the mighty French Broad River. Within the first 400 feet along the route hikers will be greeted with a dramatic rock face towering over the trail. Continue on the trail for 0.3 miles further and you will begin the ascent to the Lover’s Leap overlook. The trail has several switchbacks, but even experienced hikers may find themselves challenged by the slope.
After climbing for nearly 0.5 miles hikers will encounter several viewpoints along the rocky cliffs and eventually reach the flat summit of this hike for a spectacular view of Bluff Mountain and the town of Hot Springs.
This is a great spot to have a quick snack and some water. Continue following the white blazes for 0.1 mile and then take the left, orange-blazed trail for the Lover’s Leap hike. See Lower Pump Gap Loop Extension for extended hike
Hikers will soon find themselves winding through tunnels of rhododendron bushes. The best time to see these wild rhododendrons in full bloom is typically in mid to late June. Following this descending trail for another 0.3 miles, hikers will encounter an intersection directing to the Silver Mine trailhead and to the Pump Gap Loop. Hikers should turn left and continue their descent towards the Silver Mine Trailhead which is approximately 0.25 miles away.
Having reached the Silver Mine Trailhead, follow the paved road south through the short residential road for 0.25 miles until arriving back at the NOC Trailhead kiosk.
Lower Pump Gap Loop (+3 Miles)
Continue on the right, white-blazed Appalachian Trail for 2 miles of hills until intersecting with the yellow-blazed, Pump Gap Loop Trail. Turn left and follow this trail for 1 mile where it will rejoin with the Lover’s Leap Trail and Silver Mine Trailhead.
The Story of Lover’s Leap
Lover’s Leap is named such for the tragedy of a dramatic Cherokee love-triangle. Mist-On-The-Mountain was the daughter of the Cherokee chief known as Lone Wolf who ruled over the Hot Springs region of the French Broad River. Lone Wolf hoped that Mist-On-The-Mountain would wed a powerful Cherokee named Tall Pine but Mist-On-The-Mountain was in love with Magwa, a handsome visitor to her village.
Enraged that Mist-On-The-Mountain was in love with Magwa, Tall Pine attacked and killed Magwa on the cliffs of Lover’s Leap. Horrified by the murder of her lover, Mist-On-The-Mountain fled from Tall Pine but was cornered on the Lover’s Leap cliff where Magwa’s spirit called to her and she leapt to her death to be reunited with him. Moments later a panther attacked and killed Tall Pine.
Driving from Asheville: Take I-26 W towards Weaverville. In 8 miles take exit 19A to get on US-25 N/ US-70 W towards Marshall. In 26 miles you will arrive in Hot Springs where there is ample parking or you can turn right onto Silver Mine Road just before the bridge into Hot Springs. 200 feet down Silver Mine Road turn left again to stay on Silver Mine Road which will take you under the bridge. Continue following the paved road until reaching the Silver Mine Trailhead and parking area. Hikers could start at this trailhead to hike Lover’s Leap in reverse or follow the directions in this version by walking back towards the French Broad River and starting at the NOC trailhead.
Walking From Hot Springs: Walk north on US-25 N/ US-70W over the Bridge of Bridge Street. Once over the French Broad River, follow the white blazed trail immediately on the right to take you down the trail and to the trailhead for Lover’s Leap.